Somewhere in between puking and feeling like puking, I decided my hair was something I could do without. Washing it was becoming a chore I kept delaying with the result that it got greasy and itchy and started falling. If I was in India, I would have chopped it all off. Here, in my current job, I feel the need to be a bit more presentable (short hair doesn’t really suit me) so I decided I would not do a ‘boy cut’ but just as short as I could go.
Normally, I go for a haircut to one of the places near my apartment, generally the cheapest deal because I find them all pretty much the same. I’ve been forced to admit though that if you don’t have straight hair, they don’t really know what to do with you. This has been solved by straightening my hair, which is fine because the style works for me and honestly, straight hair is a lot easier to maintain.
Now, though, I’m pregnant so straightening not advisable (not convinced why though) and also anyway I’ve been resolving to grow out the straightened bits for years but ended up caving. So I have hair that is half straight and half wavy, which would probably be even more complicated for the local places to deal with.
So I started googling to see if there were places where expats with non-straight hair got their hair cut. HK has a lot of expat forums where people share tips so sure enough there were different options. The problem with these expat forums is that a lot of the expats are the kind that live in the mid-levels and so their version of a reasonable price differs from mine. A lot seemed on the expensive side and the reviews were conflicting because unless you got that particular stylist, you might not get a great cut. And I really didn’t want to spend that much on a haircut either.
One of the people recommended, however, sounded like a desi person who worked out of a private flat in TST. Now desi set-ups in TST can be pretty grotty but I figured that a desi person should be able to understand desi hair so even if the set-up wasn’t fancy, I’d go with it. I called and made an appointment and was told it would cost $150 for a cut and shampoo which was fine by me.
The building didn’t look promising from the outside and I found myself in a shady corridor in front of a decrepit looking door. Pressed the bell and it was opened by this very professional looking desi lady and inside, the place was simple but clean – two chairs in front of mirrors, a hairwash chair and a rack with decent looking products. Best of all, there were stacks of nice mags like Marie Claire and Cosmo… in English!
I didn’t get to do much reading, however, because we were two desis in the same room. In India, we often grumble about how Indians are always nosy about each others personal lives but I have found from experience that the opposite is rather boring too. People abroad are so prickly about their boundaries. Sometimes you want to just have a good old desi no-holds barred chat.
Thing is, we were two desis abroad which means that we kind of tiptoed cautiously into the conversation. But in no time we were off. I think the starting point was me telling her I was pregnant and how I had no energy for anything and then it went on the mother-in-laws, marriage culture and whether she would consider marrying a non-desi guy.
Weirdest thing was that when I came in, there was this other desi girl there and the hairdresser and her were chatting away in Cantonese! I’m so jealous… I want to chat in Cantonese too! No wonder Chinese people are always saying to me: “But I know this Indian girl and she speaks fluent Cantonese!” Bah! Those are the ones that grew up there not the one’s that arrived three years ago.
At some point, it came out that I was Indian and she was Pakistani. Now, stupid I know, but I’ve always wondered whether ordinary Pakistanis feel some hostility towards Indians. At least, in India, I’ve thought that they would. Like growing up, I thought that we were supposed to think of Pakistanis as The Enemy and suffered great guilt when I had this burning crush on Wazim Akram until I saw his name scratched on a couple of desks at school and realised I wasn’t the only one with treacherous lust. Somewhere down the line I realised that this animosity was stupid and that I was going to cheer for the Pakistani team if India wasn’t playing them. But I wondered if Pakistanis would feel the same benevolence towards me.
Honestly, we are victims of our history textbooks. Like when I first went to Beijing I wondered whether the people there would see me as the enemy because I am Indian but then I realised that China has bigger enemies to be worried about and Indians don’t really figure highly on their enemy scale (in the average person’s mind at least). Mostly the people were really curious and when they could, pointed out aspects of commonality between our cultures.
Which is really the whole point. Pakistanis and Indians have very similar cultures so when abroad at least that whole line-of-control becomes/or should become irrelevant and we can settle down and just chat properly. Who else can you get into these really personal topics with in all of five minutes? Such as: mother-in-laws’ insistence on male grandchild, marrying someone from outside your religion, propensity of desi guys abroad to marry pavam girl from home country through the arranged route and then fool around with other women thereafter. And I seem to be turning into a real desi aunty because when V told me that this Pakistani guy had joined his team at work, I was busy scheming about whether he could be set up with my hairdresser.
Oh and the haircut was pretty good. She advised against chopping all my hair off but cut as much of the length as she could, while leaving enough for a ponytail which I thought was very sensible. And she didn’t do that shaggy-edged thing that the Chinese hairdressers do so that although the cut would benefit from a blow dry (“at least the front”), it won’t look hideous as it grows out.